Plant sale

open gardens constantia plant saleJust some of the interesting and beautiful exotic and indigenous plants – all in excellent condition – at our Open Gardens Constantia plant sale, on Friday and Saturday.

Friday hours: 2pm – 5.30pm
Saturday hours: 10am- 5pm

Visit this link for ticket information.


Striking sage

Salvia canariensis is a strong-growing, tall plant with the grey, soft, felt-covered, arrow-shaped leaves. Come summer it excels itself, producing spikes of deep magenta-pink flowers. Apart from appealing to sunbirds and pollinators, they make excellent cut flowers, too.  They are ideal for a sunny spot at the back of a border.

We will have a few of these stunners at our Open Gardens Constantia plant sale tomorrow and Saturday.

Photo and text: Marianne Alexander

Comfrey – the wonderplant

Looking for comfrey plants? We will have some of this hard-to-find, all-purpose herb at our plant sale on Friday and Saturday.

Garden accent, healer, compost activator, green mulch and liquid fertilizer, all in one plant.

Apart from its reputation as a healing herb (one of its common names is knitbone), comfrey – Symphytum officinale and cultivars –  is also a good compost activator (add a layer of leaves to your dry, brown matter). Its leaves’ high nitrogen and potassium levels make it an excellent green mulch, too. Steeped for six weeks, a comfrey tea is a good liquid fertilizer (and about as smelly, in its own way, as seaweed).

5 comfreyComfrey’s attractive, bold leaves make it a useful accent or contrast plant in the garden. The more common specimens have purple flowers, but some produce remarkable blue blooms.5 C5 omfrey herb JENNY F 5 DSC_0051 (58)

Got tickets to Open Gardens Constantia? Follow the link for more info.

Photos: Marianne Alexander. Text: Marianne Alexander, Marie Viljoen.


The botanical name of  indigenous Melianthus major is a real mouthful but not nearly as bad as its Afrikaans common name: kruidjie-roer-my-nie. If you can’t get your tongue around either, just call it the giant honey flower.

The striking grey leaves with their giant serrations (below, paired with Perilla ‘Magilla’) provide an interesting contrast in the garden – but do have a rather unpleasant smell when crushed – hence the name!

perilla magilla

But what most gardeners grow it for are the long bronze-maroon flower-spikes which develop in spring  and act as magnets to any bird with a sweet beak: sunbirds, bulbuls, weavers, and white eyes all flock to them. The seed pods are also attractive, providing additional interest in an off-season garden border.

Left on the plant to dry, the seeds result in lots of baby plants. We saved some from our garden for the Open Gardens Constantia plant sale.

(The plant has toxic properties, so keep leaf-chewing pets and voracious toddlers away.)

Photos: Marianne Alexander, Marie Viljoen. Text: Marianne Alexander

Snail Vine – perfumed climber

Snail vine DSC_0899 (8)

One of the unusual plants available at the Open Gardens Constantia Plant Sale:

The South American snail vine (also called corkscrew vine, and climbing shell vine), Vigna caracalla, is a quick growing, sweet-smelling twiner, which Thomas Jefferson described as the most beautiful bean in the world (now you have to have it, don’t you?).

You are unlikely to find it at a nursery; you need to find a friend who has one or, if you are lucky, buy one from our plant sale at Rosemarie’s lovely garden.

The ‘snail’ refers to the curled shape of the flowers.The plants for sale have been propagated by Maureen Viljoen, who writes: “My plant grew almost perceptibly overnight as it raced up through a Trachelospermum jasminoides, emerging triumphantly through the top. It loses all its leaves in the winter and seems to disappear, so mark its position with a stick and label when it is still in its infancy.”

Photo: Marianne Alexander. Text: Maureen Viloen

Staghorn pups at our plant sale

staghorn fern

Staghorn ferns (Platycerium spp) are so-called because their leaves resemble the horns of that large herbivore. (If that animal had floppy horns, of course. Ja nee. And so why are they pups and not fawns? Hey, we’re just gardeners).

Moving along:

Staghorns are epiphytic, meaning that they are air plants, deriving moisture and nutrients from the air, while relying for physical support from another plant, generally a tree. They are not parasitic.

In our homes they can be grown on a piece of wood or in a basket, and make wonderful green accents for tree trunks, walls and patios.

To attach a pad to a tree in your garden, pack compost or spaghnum moss between the fern and the trunk of the tree with pantyhose, fishing line or wire (pantyhose can easily be cut away once the plant has adhered, or they will disintegrate in time).

For a wall, use a board as backing (with a hook to hang, like a picture frame), or buy a special slatted wooden mount from a nursery. Bury the staghorn roots in a ball of moistened spaghnum moss and press to the mount. With thin fishing line, tie the wad of spaghnum moss with the embedded fern to the board and staple the fishing line to the board. Fluff out the moss to hide the wire, and later the developing fern fronds will do that for you.

For best growth, partial shade and light watering or spraying is all that is required. A special tip from Suzanne Kilpin (Constantiaberg Garden Club): “From time to time feed with a ‘vrot’ banana. Pack skin and fruit at the back. This supplies the plant with the potassium that it requires.”

Over time the fern will produce pups from the spores under the leaves and will fill up around the trunk of the tree and become quite spectacular. And then you can sell them. Like we plan to!

Come and get your pups at our Open Gardens Constantia plant sale on November 14th and 15th!

Photo: Lyn McCallum. Text: Suzanne Kilpin, Marie Viljoen

Flourish’s plants get a boost

5 comfrey DSC_0004 (1)

Part of the attraction of the Open Garden Constantia days is the popular plant sale (the PPS!).

The members of each of the three garden clubs grow perennials and shrubs to be offered for sale on November 14th and 15th. Naturally, this takes time, and space, and each gardener has their own approach to plant babysitting and feeding.

Flourish Garden Club has an ace up its sleeve: the club asked each of its 26 members to grow 10 plants for the plant sale. And then, writes their chairperson, Penny: “…the best of the best were loaded up on Lorette’s bakkie, who then delivered the plants to Cherise at Kirstenbosch.”

Cherise is a member  of Flourish, and she runs the propagation nursery at Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden.

“Here,” continues Penny, “under her watchful eye, these plants will get a good feeding and looking after for the month prior to the sale.”

You can’t ask for better a better fattening up of plants destined for new gardens. Kind of like a horticultural version of foie gras. And nobody dies.

Come and see them, and take some home, from Rosemarie’s garden, where the plant sale will be held.

Photo: Marianne Alexander